By Dr. John David Smith, President • BMA Global Missions
We believe God’s mission is all about His glory to the nations in and through His church. If you have been listening very long to BMA Global Missions, you have heard the following two statements:
“The local church is both the source and the goal of New Testament missions.”
“Missions offices and agencies do not reproduce, churches do.”
If, indeed, the local church is the recipient and executor of the Great Commission, we must look deeper into what is a church and exactly how it fulfills the mission.
A church is a group of regenerate, baptized followers of Christ who meet to worship God, obey the commands of Christ and scatter to make His name known to the nations. Typically, we are fairly adept at the gathering part for worship and gaining Bible information, but it is the scattering part — the missionary part — that challenges us many times. This must be overcome since the church is the normal and primary means of accomplishing the mission.
The New Testament prominence of the local church in fulfilling the mission is indisputable. Jesus’ love for the church is noteworthy. In John 13, He “loved them to the end.” In Matthew 16 and 18, we see clear instructions on authority given to the church that Christ initiated and loved. In Acts 20, Jesus declares that He purchased the church with His own blood. In the letters to the churches of Revelation (2-3), it is evident that Christ loves His churches.
This center stage for the church in the mission is evidenced all through the New Testament — as the gospel advanced, churches were started. In Acts 2, over 3,000 were added to the church as they proclaimed the gospel. Another church was started in Antioch of Syria that became the very epicenter of the missionary movement. Churches were started in Galatia on the first missionary journey, then throughout Asia Minor, Greece and all the way to Rome in the 33-year period the book of Acts covers.
Churches as the source and goal of New Testament missions continued as those original churches multiplied more churches. The church at Colossae helped to plant new churches at Hierapolis and Laodicea. Churches were started in “all the cities” on the island of Crete as told in the book of Titus. In all of these situations where churches were the result of fulfilling the mission, they then became the source of new churches. “In the New Testament, the Christian life is the churched life” (Jonathan Leeman).
We have defined a church, now what is the mission? There are five major commissions in the New Testament. We commonly call Matt. 28:19-20 the Great Commission, and we will return to that passage in a moment. Mark 16:15 says to preach the gospel to all creatures. Luke 24 says to announce the message of repentance and forgiveness to the nations. John 20:21 tells us that, just as Jesus was sent, so are we. Acts 1:8 says to simultaneously, like concentric circles, reach from our Jerusalem to the ends of the earth as Spirit-empowered witnesses.
The Great Commission gives us one imperative — “Go make disciples of all nations” — as carried out through three participles: going, baptizing and teaching. The three participles also become imperative since they are connected to the one main command. This verse delineates our mission this way: “Go win disciples of Christ in all nations, baptize them in obedience to Christ and as a new identity in Christ, and teach them God’s Word to the point where they internalize it in their understanding and externalize it through obedience.” In other words, these are people in all nations who are won to Christ, baptized, taught God’s Word and now repeat all the above.
Another saying you have no doubt heard from us many times is, “The church is a disciple factory, not a believer warehouse.” If our church is not spending most of its time, money and energy in fulfilling this mission, we need to remember what a church is and what our mission is!
BMA Global Missions helps your church in the missionary process by providing the following:
• A credible recommendation system for other churches to help your missionary candidate get to the field,
• Detailed accounting and financial services,
• Pre-field and on-field training,
• A unified missionary effort under a unifying vision carried out with sound missions principles,
• A structure of accountability to our churches,
• Very specified missionary care,
• A security network,
• Basic requirements such as visas, insurance and other daily needs.
There are many who can support the church in the mission, but there is nothing that can supplant the church in the mission. We pray that your church will be evangelizing, baptizing, discipling and planting other churches. Our mission is local-church driven.